This content was published: March 19, 2007. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.
Southern Charm in the Pacific Northwest
Photos and Story by James Hill
As President of PCC’s Cascade Campus, one of Algie Gatewood’s top priorities is increasing the attendance and retention of young male students of color. It’s a familiar challenge for many colleges and universities nationwide as black males earn only one-third of all degrees obtained by African Americans.
Gatewood, who has dedicated his nearly 35-year career to public education, has personal experience on the topic. As a 16-year-old growing up in a small town in North Carolina the young Gatewood had few things on his mind: making money and owning a car – a ’59 Ford to be exact. College was not in his plan.
But his working class parents wouldn’t hear of it. They had high hopes for their five children and instilled in them a perseverance to succeed. The kids didn’t disappoint as they went on to careers in law, medicine, business, art and education.
Now Gatewood is going after male students of color, showing them that the way to well-paying jobs is by staying in school. And he wants all students to know that with the availability of financial aid, lack of money should not be a hindrance.
“I would have never gone to college without financial aid,” he adds.
As a teenager Gatewood earned money by putting in hours cleaning floors at a nursing home, picking peaches in orchards and working in a cotton mill. Once he started college Gatewood knew there was a better life ahead. He completed his bachelor’s degree in less than four years.
Early in his career he spent a year as the assistant to a college president and that’s where he got the bug. He wanted a presidency of his own. He worked for 25 years in community college administration and seven years in university administration. Along the way he earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in education. As he worked and went to school, he also helped raise three children, ran an automotive repair shop and sold real estate. In 2004 he left North Carolina to take over the reins at Cascade, home to about 16,000 students, which was going through $60 million in construction projects.
“People here are friendly, morale is high and there is diversity,” said Gatewood.
He loves to walk the grounds and chat with students and staff alike. He’s known as personable and approachable.
“He’s accessible and if you need to meet with him, he makes time for you,” said Deborah Cochrane, director of the Portland Teachers Program at PCC. “He isn’t afraid of any kind of work and he doesn’t view anything as beneath him. He’s done a lot of jobs in his life, and so I think he respects, values and listens to everyone.”
Peter Maphumulo believes Gatewood has created a clear vision for Cascade. “He wants this campus to provide the best opportunities to this community, by developing educational programs that provide living wage jobs as well as providing a pathway for earning baccalaureate degrees for North Portland citizens,” said Maphumulo, Liberal Arts and Mathematics Division Dean. “He worked very hard to introduce the Middle and Early College Program and he formed a partnership with the Native American Youth Association to expose Native American students to college by bringing them to the campus.”
After putting in 60- to 70-hour work weeks on campus, Gatewood retreats to his home in rural Washington County (“I’m a country boy at heart,” he says) and to his wife, Rosalyn. In his spare time he golfs and hopes to ship his cars, several of them BMWs, to Oregon so he can overhaul them.